Monday, January 29, 2018

Doctor Who: The War Machines Part 1

It’s Monday January 29, 2018, and this week I’m starting my look at the four-part Doctor Who story, The War Machines to wrap up the third season of Classic Doctor Who as we close in on the end of the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who (which goes in to season four but I am getting ahead of myself)

Before we talk about part one, let’s address the fact that The War Machines is the last to feature Jackie Lane as Dodo, her tenure lasting six stories. Because Jackie Lane has refused to be directly involved with Doctor Who and so the character never appears on TV again, but has popped in in various expanded media of Doctor Who such as the Doctor Who novel Salvation and the Big Finish audio drama Mother Russia and Return of the Rocket Men. But here’s a bit of funny note, remember what I said that Jackie Lane refused to have DIRECT involvement with Doctor Who, she did end up being a theatrical agent representing Tom Baker, the fourth doctor, Janet Fielding who played companion Tegan Jovanka during the fifth Doctor’s era, and Nicholas Courtney, who of course was Brigadier Leftbridge-Stewart.

So now lets talk about Part 1 of the War Machines which aired June 25, 1966 and had a viewership total of 5.4 million viewers which was up 900 thousand from part 4 of the Savages, as the swing of Doctor Who viewership totals are up and down pretty erratically.

The episode opens with the Doctor and Dodo arriving in London, and the Doctor gets an odd feeling upon seeing the Post Office Tower, so he and Dodo go to investigated, where they are escorted to meet with Professor Brett who has completed his life’s work an artificial intelligence known as WOTAN that cannot make mistakes, The Doctor challenges this with question WOTAN gets right, Dodo has a go asking what TARDIS means, and shockingly WOTAN knows it stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Dodo blanks out and complains about a strange buzzing in her ears for a bit and so to get a breather she accompanies Professor Brett’s secretary Polly to a night club. Polly is a stark contrast to Dodo, being much taller, blond and certainly more ‘with it’ in terms of the swinging 60s of London. At the club they meet a Sailor Ben Jackson who is depressed that he’s stuck on shore duty, but cheers up when he saves Polly from being harassed by some limey douche. Dodo, Polly and Ben have themselves a good time until Dodo gets a call, blanks out and leaves as if under some strange power. At the same time WOTAN starts to take control of people, first Professor Brett, then Major Green and Professor Krimpton, declaring through Brett that the earth cannot advance with humanity running the show and they need a special brain for it’s plans,, Dodo arrives at the post Office Tower and we hear WOTON declare ‘Doctor Who Is Requred’ as the Doctor meets up with Polly, meets Ben and learns of Dodo’s disappearance.
This episode does a lot in 30 minutes, setting up the plot, the villain and its abilities and introducing the new companions Ben and Polly, who certainly have an interesting chemistry and are as far away removed from Barbara and Ian as possible in many aspects, though it’s quite clear Ben as an enlisted man in the British Navy is intended to be the ‘man of action’ with how leaped to Polly’s defense. Polly and Dodo certainly look like they would get along famously if the character of Dodo was kept around for the fourth season. I rather liked the set for WOTON’s central hub and the night club, and since this story of Doctor Who is set in 1966, it allowed for more exterior shots.

Anyway, next week I’ll talk about part of the War Machines and the last time we see the physically character of Dodo in Doctor Who and see how WOTON goes about trying to get the Doctor. Later this week on Friday, I’ll be going over episode 2 of The Devil Lady, and of course you can catch me on Twitch 7 nights a week.

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